As Canadians spend more time online in isolation due to COVID-19 restrictions, fraudsters are finding additional points of vulnerability to exploit, leaving Canadians increasingly concerned about fraud.
Our latest Interac Corp. Fraud Prevention Month Study reveals over half (55 per cent) of Canadians worry increased isolation is making people more susceptible to fraud and 52 per cent believe there is greater risk of fraud due to more time spent online. Unfortunately, these concerns are adding to existing feelings of worry, which may be suppressing our fraud defenses, as many Canadians report the pandemic has increased overall stress levels.
When it comes to assessing who is being impacted by fraud most during the pandemic, we found that while additional online screen time is exposing many tech savvy generations like Gen Zs and Millennials to the impacts of fraud, those who are not digital natives are reporting fewer instances of it this year in comparison to last.
Interestingly, seniors (65+), who are often seen as high fraud targets, are the least likely to report that they or someone close to them had fallen victim to fraud this year, down 11 per cent from last year (30 per cent for seniors in 2021, 41 per cent in 2020, and 52 per cent and 53 per cent for Gen Zs and Millennials, respectively in 2021). This is good news considering seniors appear to be the age group that is most worried about fraud.
Like many Canadians, isolation is a key stressor for seniors, as they are the most likely to think time alone due to pandemic restrictions increases susceptibility to fraud (62 per cent). Seniors are also the highest of all age groups to believe Canadians are becoming more susceptible to fraud overall due to COVID-19 (49 per cent), with nearly nine in 10 (88 per cent) fearing fraudsters have gotten more sophisticated in their attempts this year.
Although fears are high, it’s encouraging to see that this age group remains vigilant in the face of fraud. 85 per cent of seniors are confident in their ability to spot a fraud attempt and over three in four (77 per cent) know where to go to find credible information about the latest trends or scams. Past fraud experiences are also boosting seniors’ confidence, with over seven in 10 (71 per cent) feeling they are better able to recognize a fraud attempt as a result of these experiences. Such high levels of awareness may in part explain the low levels of fraud faced by this group this year in addition to considerations like potential underreporting and possible reluctancies to recount such experiences.
Seniors are also eager to continue learning about fraud, as they are the most likely of any age group to want to know more about how to protect themselves (62 per cent). Thankfully, this willingness and eagerness to increase knowledge about fraud prevention measures is a sentiment shared across all Canadians surveyed, which is encouraging news considering consumers are the first line of defense when it comes to safeguarding against fraud.
To help ensure all Canadians can and continue to transact safely, Interac offers the following recommendations:
STOP: Don’t feel pressured into taking action if you receive a request for personal information that you weren’t expecting – make it a habit to stop and think rather than quickly respond. Our survey showed that phone calls, emails and texts asking for personal information are the most prevalent. Consumers can often feel overwhelmed and more susceptible to expose their personal information to fraudsters especially as we’re seeing an increase in online interactions and communications like these. With so much of Canadians’ lives now online, combined with feeling isolated and vulnerable due to COVID-19, it’s particularly important to take a moment to stop, breathe, think, and follow your instincts.
SCRUTINIZE: Assess the situation and look for the telltale signs of a scam. We encourage Canadians to make use of online resources like the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre to stay up to date on scams and how to spot them. While it’s encouraging to see that Canadians are eager to learn more about fraud, especially as consumers are the first line of defense, constant education is crucial to safeguarding against fraud, so referring to resources like these routinely can be extremely beneficial.
SPEAK UP: Confirm the validity and report any concerns and recognize that you are not alone. There are resources that can help you recognize and respond to fraud attempts. If you suspect fraud, contact the sender of the communication through a different channel to verify it’s real. If you’ve already provided sensitive information, immediately contact your financial service provider and report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
As impacts of COVID-19, like isolation and more time spent online, are making us more vulnerable to fraud, it’s important for consumers to remain proactive and vigilant in protecting themselves. At Interac we are proud to be leaders in security and recognize the role we play in helping consumers enhance their fraud literacy so they can continue to transact with confidence.